August 28, 2009

WILL CHRIS DODD OR BARBARA MIKULSKI TAKE OVER THE HEALTH COMMITTEE?

Now, in what would be a unique parting gift, there is a chance that Kennedy’s death could elevate Mikulski to the chairmanship of a major committee for the first time in her 23-year Senate career. For her to inherit his job, though, Kennedy’s closest friend in the Senate would have to turn it down first.

The odds of that happening are difficult to gauge. They depend on a complex blend of seemingly unrelated factors, including President Barack Obama’s legislative priorities, arcane Senate rules and the political calculations of one of the most endangered Democratic senators in the country.

That man is veteran Sen. Christopher J. Dodd. The Connecticut senator hasn’t tipped his hand, but if he decides that shoring up his shaky re-election prospects is his top priority, Mikulski would remain the most senior Democrat without a major committee chairmanship.

Dodd told reporters Wednesday that he had not given “a second’s worth of thought” to whether he would take over for Kennedy as chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

The same day, Dodd spoke by phone with Mikulski, according to a Mikulski aide.

I question whether getting involved in the healthcare debacle will help Dodd’s reelection prospects. But he and Kennedy were certainly close.

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